It’s no surprise that fishing is a popular pastime in Orange County. Miles of ocean and numerous lakes provide ample opportunity for people to enjoy fishing from the shore, or by boat. Here are some of the best places for fishing in Orange County. Be sure to get your fishing license before casting your line and check with local beaches for fishing restrictions before fishing from the shore.
Did you know: Everyone age 16 and up must have a valid fishing license to fish in the state of California. Find licensing requirements and fees here. A fishing license is not required at that Santa Ana River Lakes, Irvine Lake and all Orange County piers. For surf or beach fishing a license is required for anyone 16 years or older.
California Free Fishing Days: California offers two free fishing days per year. On these two free days, you can fish in any freshwater lake without a license.
Here are the California open fishing seasons.
Located about 25 miles from the Orange County coast, the island of Catalina waits for visitors to come out and relax, fish, and enjoy island time. The island is only 22 miles long and 8 miles wide but offers plenty of activity to keep visitors busy and coming back for more.
One of the favorite activities in Catalina is of course, fishing. The coves and reefs around the shoreline of the island create bountiful habitats for bait fish like sardines, anchovies, and mackerel. The bait fish in turn draw in larger fish to feed including Yellowtail and White Sea Bass. When the water is warm, fishermen may even hook up with larger fish like Marlin, or Yellowfin and Bluefin Tuna.
There are several companies, including those listed below that offer sportfishing charters from Orange County that go out to fish Catalina. There are also a few companies on the island itself that offer charter fishing.
34675 Golden Lantern St, Dana Point
Dana Wharf Sportfishing and Whale Watching offers an amazing set of opportunities for fishing enthusiasts. They offer regular daily fishing charters like the other sportfishing companies ranging from half day to overnight and more. They offer whale watching for the public and educational field trips.
One of the unique options available at Dana Wharf is a private charter on the catamaran to search for sharks including Great Whites, hammerheads, mako, and thresher sharks. Dana Wharf goes above and beyond for kids, offering a Kids Fishing Club, Fishing Camps, and on Sundays they host a kids fishing clinic. Families can bring their kids to the docks where staff members teach fishing tips and techniques. After the clinic, families are invited on a fishing trip aboard one of the charter boats from 12:45 to 5:45. Kids 12 and under fish for free with the purchase of one adult ticket (one free child per paying adult). Kids can even use the fishing gear for free. Dana Wharf also offers live music harbor cruises, parasailing, and more.
400 Main Street, Newport Beach
Davey’s Locker is a popular sportfishing company that offers fishing charters and whale watching trips. Half day trips off the coast fish for rock fish, sculpin, and other small fish. Full day trips and overnight trips fish for larger species like tuna and yellowtail.
Year-round whale watching trips take spectators out in search of gray whales, dolphin, orcas, humpback whales and other sea life, depending on the season. Davey’s Locker offers field trips, private charters, and other special accommodations. A variety of boats can be rented for fishing trips and harbor cruises.
28241 La Paz Road, Laguna Niguel
Laguna Niguel Regional Park is a popular local fishing spot with a 44-acre lake stocked with catfish, bass, and during the winter months, trout. Fishing is available from the shoreline only. No boats are allowed here. Everyone 16 years and older must have a valid fishing license to fish at Laguna Niguel Regional Park. Kids can fish without a license. Fishing is available during regular park hours. This is a great spot to teach the kids to fish, or to just enjoy a relaxing day near the water in a beautiful location.
309 Palm Street #A, Newport Beach
Newport Landing offers deep sea fishing charters in Orange County. Whether your a first-timer or an experienced enthusiast, Newport Landing has something for everyone. Fishing charters are offered for half-day (about 5 hours), full day, overnight, and more. Depending on the season, what’s biting, and location, you can catch rock fish, sea bass, sculpin, tuna, halibut, yellowtail, and more. No matter which charter you choose, you’re sure to bring home some fresh, beautiful bounty of the sea.
Newport Landing also offers year-round whale watching trips to the public, and educational whale watching field trips for students. Participants will spot dolphins and sea birds, and from November through April you might catch a glimpse of humpback whales, orcas, minke whales and gray whales. from May through October keep an eye out for minke whales, blue whales, fin whales, and gray whales. You never know what’s waiting for you on the ocean.
There are many places to pier fish in Orange County (no fishing license required):
- Dana Point Harbor Pier (short pier)
- Huntington Beach Pier
- Newport Beach
- Newport Beach Pier (also known as McFadden Wharf)
- Balboa Pier
- 11 Newport Harbor Short Piers (see Newport Harbor Public Pier Map)
- N Street/Channel Rd (peninsula)
- Washington St (Fun Zone area)
- Fernando St (peninsula)
- 15th St (peninsula)
- 19th St (peninsula)
- Rhine Wharf (Lido Park dr/peninsula)
- Coral Ave/S Bay Front (Balboa Island)
- Opal Ave/S Bay Front (Balboa Island)
- Emerald Ave/N Bay Front (Balboa Island)
- Sapphire Ave/N Bay Front (Balboa Island)
- Park Ave/E Bay Front (Little Balboa Island)
- San Clemente Pier
- Seal Beach Pier
- Publicly owned jetties and breakwaters may also be “public piers” (free fishing allowed)
- Dana Point Jetty South (On the adjacent rock wall touching land a fishing license is required)
- Dana Point Jetty
- Newport Harbor South Jetty (On the adjacent rock wall touching land a fishing license is required
- Newport Harbor North Jetty (Note: On the adjacent rock wall touching land a fishing license is required)
The California Department of Fish and Game has a great list of frequently asked questions. Fishing from the piers in California is free and does not require a license. All other restrictions and regulations apply, including catch limit, minimum size of the fish, and seasons.
Fisherman may have no more than two devices for fishing on any pier, including rods, nets, traps, and handlines. Hooks must be barbless when fishing from public piers. Local tackle stores are great sources of information regarding types of lures, hooks, seasonal catch, and additional regulations for pier fishing.
4060 East La Palma Avenue
Santa Ana River Lakes offers lakeside fishing day and night, six days a week. Seasonal fish include catfish, rainbow trout, lightning trout, sturgeon, largemouth bass, bluegill, and more. Overnight camping is available here on select weekends. Boats are available for rent on a first come, first serve basis.
There is also a special area for kids at Santa Ana River Lakes. Huckleberry pond features a large enclosed fishing pond surrounded by a grassy area with a few select farm animals like chickens and a pig. They also have a mining area where kids can mine for gems and rocks.
At Huckleberry Pond, kids are guaranteed to catch a fish – usually catfish or trout, depending on the season. They have to keep what they catch, so plan on fish for dinner after a trip here. Rods are available for rent. Huckleberry pond is a great place to host events for birthdays and scouting groups.
Most any beach in Southern California is open to fishermen, but a fishing license is required. Year-round fishing is available for surfperches, croakers, California corbina, and California halibut and other species. The best time for fishing from the shore is when a high tide is coming in, especially in the morning hours. Fishermen should come prepared with a 9-to-12-foot rod that is equipped with 20-to-30-pound test line, extra tackle, needle nose pliers, and a pack or bucket for fish. Fishermen who plan to enter the water should wear waders and a flotation device. While fishing from the shore can be fun, it is important to remember to clean up extra line and tackle and dispose of it properly. Never leave hooks, lures, or line on the beach and do not gut and clean your catch on the sand.
More Places to Fish in Orange County
For a unique experience catch grunion with your hands.
- Carbon Canyon Regional Park (Brea, CA)
- Carr Park Lake (Huntington Beach, CA)
- Centennial Park Lake (Santa Ana, CA)
- Cleveland National Forest
- Trabuco Creek
- Loveland Reservoir
- East Lake Village (Yorba Linda, CA) * * Permit only, East Lake residents
- Eisenhower Park and Lake (Orange, CA)
- Greer Park (Huntington Beach, CA)
- Heritage Park Community Center (Irvine, CA)
- Huntington Central Park – Huntington Lake/Lake Talbert (Huntington Beach, CA)
- Irvine Lake (re-opened August 17th, 2019) (Silverado, CA)
- Irvine Regional Park Lake (Orange, CA)
- Lago Santa Margarita (Rancho Santa Margarita, CA) * Permit only, RSM residents, stocked in Spring with bass, bluegill, and catfish
- Laguna Coast Wilderness Park (Laguna Beach, CA)
- Laguna Lake Park (Fullerton, CA)
- Laguna Niguel Regional Park/Laguna Niguel Lake & formerly Sulphur Creek Reservoir (Laguna Niguel, CA)
- Lake Mission Viejo (Mission Viejo, CA)
- Mike Ward Community Park – Woodbridge (Irvine, CA)
- Mile Square Regional Park (Fountain Valley, CA)
- North Lake / South Lake (Woodbridge, CA)
- Oso Lake (Mission Viejo, CA)
- Ralph B. Clark Regional Park (Buena Park, CA)
- Ted Craig Regional Park (Fullerton, CA)
- Tri-City Regional Park (Placentia, CA)
- Woodbridge Lakes North & South (Irvine, CA) *Permit only, Woodbridge residents
- Yorba Regional Park (Anaheim, CA)
Lakes & Reservoirs Where Fishing is NOT Allowed
- Anaheim Lake (Anaheim, CA)
- Burris Basin (Anaheim, CA)
- El Toro Reservoir (Mission Viejo, CA)
- Fairview Park (Costa Mesa, CA)
- Golf Courses in Orange County
- Haster Retarding Basin/Haster Basin Recreational Park (Garden Grove)
- Kraemer Basin (Anaheim, CA)
- Lambert Reservoir (Irvine, CA)
- Orange County Reservoir (aka Brea Reservoir)
- Peters Canyon Reservoir (Orange, CA)
- Rattlesnake Reservoir (Irvine, CA)
- San Juan Creek/River
- Sand Canyon Reservoir/Strawberry Farms Golf Club (Irvine, CA)
- Santiago Recharge Basin
- Santiago Creek
- Siphon Reservoir (Irvine, CA)
- Veterans Park (Lake Forest, CA)
- Walnut Canyon Reservoir (Anaheim, CA)
- William R Mason Regional Park Lake (Irvine, CA)
- Villa Park Dam (Orange, CA)
Kids Fishing Derbies In Orange County
Mile Square Park: Hosted by OC Parks, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and Angler Chronicles, the annual free kids fishing derby is held at the North Lake for kids ages 6 to 15. The event is generally scheduled in October and includes on-site fishing clinics, limited fishing gear available for loan, and trophies and prizes awarded.
San Clemente Day & Fishing Derby: Held annually at the San Clemente Municipal Pier, this event is for kids ages 6-13. Fishing gear will be available supplied by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, volunteers from Fish for Life will be there to help, and Dana Wharf Sportfishing will be there with t-shirts. Kids can win prizes for different categories.
Freshwater & Lake Fish Found in Orange County
These are the common freshwater fish found fishing in Orange County (species vary by lake):
Trout, catfish, crappie, bluegill, largemouth bass, and carp seem to be the most common fish found in all lakes.
- Catfish (Blue, Channel, Imperial)
- Largemouth Bass (Northern and Florida)
- Inland Salmon
- Redear Sunfish
- Smallmouth Bass
- Striped Bass
- Trout (Rainbow, Brook, Brown, Heritage, Golden, and Steelhead)
- Wiper (aka hybrid striped bass or whiterock bass)
Note: Some of these are stocked fish.
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Heidi Deal is the author of the Newcomers Handbook to Living In Los Angeles & Orange County, and a children’s book author specializing in history and human rights.